Review: Charlie And The Rays – ‘Black Licorice’


Yes, it came out in 2016. A first time listen to Charlie And The Rays newest E.P. will most likely have you checking the release date, under the presumption you’re listening to an undiscovered group from the summer of love. They assure you Black Licorice was recorded in Seattle this year of our Lord 2016.
Beginning with a strong bass line, Black Licorice immediately delves into smooth, congruent layers of guitars, keys, horns and drums before letting loose the powerhouse tandem of sisters Jordan and Rebecca Stobbe’s soulful vocals. The siblings sing with a very Lennon and McCartney-esque style, a tribute to many years busking Beatles tunes at Pike Place Market.

Slowing down just a hair, “Can’t Get You Off” is a compellingly hearty ballad, again blending retro but this time with a few more zeitgeist influences, especially in the vocal. Think Alabama Shakes backed by Crosby, Stills, Nash and we’ll throw Young in too. Like many Shakes songs, this tune is a solo vocal effort but is backed by rich sprinkles of brass.

“Bitter Love” is a very fitting name for the third and darkest track of the album. Unlike the first two songs, this one is in minor and is lead off with a biting yet triumphant guitar riff. The lyrics of the song convey the sense of being a victim or a slave to someone’s ensnarement with lines like “…I‘ve been thinking how they whip youstrip you of your senseonly a fool is sure to take the hand that strangles them. The song could provide a sense of the narrator’s bout with either a tangible love or the constraining rite and commitment it takes to be an artist. How you constantly let your art break you down but you continue to return often with seemingly no payoff. It’s a very powerful song with an incredibly catchy and simple chorus of “Bitter Love.”

Following the most lyrically decadent with the lightest and folkiest song on the record, the simply titled “Girl” is an airy acoustic number that would fit right in on a Joan Baez playlist. Fingerpicked guitar, mandolin and minimal keyboard and percussion aid to the story of “Annie” who “grew up thinking with her hands.” The song further pronounces the young group’s versatility and songwriting prowess.
The final track on Black Licorice was also the band’s single. “Oh My My” is a sunny, bubbly and bright album closer, clocking in just over two minutes, it’s a short and sweet summation of the band’s catchy and full sound.

Black Licorice is an extremely promising and easy listen. The songs each work as standouts on their own and when listened to side by side show the talents and depths of the band’s abilities. If you’re a fan of eclectic works and songs, showing a wide range of abilities over numerous instruments, lend your ears to Charlie And The Rays.

(Black Licorice is available for purchase digitally via and you can stream the track “Oh My My” below via Bandcamp.)

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Alex Stanilla

Alex Stanilla is a writer from Lebanon, Pennsylvania now residing in Seattle, WA. He enjoys cats, pasta, live music, coffee and donuts and trying to write about all of those things. You can catch him at a show or the bar or the bar at the show where he'll somehow find a way to compare whatever band is playing to Elliott Smith. Find him on Twitter at @Kanga_rooBoy

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